What happens in winter

leavesIt’s the seasonal equivalent of Sunday dread, that moment as the last of the weekend turns into the first of the work week (or, years ago, fresh seven days of school) when you begin to feel your entire life weigh heavily upon you. Somewhere recently I read that Sunday dread is the bit of evening where you are nearly smothered by the choices you’ve made, and the doubts you have about them – should I have gone to grad school when I was young? Is it too late to become President? Why didn’t I try harder in fifth grade? Will we ever be the people living in the same neighborhood as Tom Izzo?

It’s when September is just about out of days and the Tigers, God bless them, are officially, mathematically, scientific-method tested and retested and confirmed, out of the playoff picture. Again.

But it’s more than the end of the season. It’s the constant reminder of Opening Day, the (irrational) amount of hope and optimism gurgling north during Spring Training in the dispatches from the beat reporters in Lakeland. It’s the same as catching a whiff of summer even as the maple leaves are scratching across your shoelaces.

Austin Jackson comes to the plate, and it’s impossible to forget his first games, his first hits. Watching the Tigers dismantle the Twins this past weekend (ten runs? Where did that come from?) of course stirs up the same emotions roiling us off the couch and high-fiving in front of the television, exclaiming to no one when the boys would come back in the bottom of the ninth and you were listening to the game on the radio, covered in garden soil, spade raised triumphantly.

And yet it’s all tinged a little sepia, something like watching a film knowing the end will be tragic. The Tigers will take the series from the Twins, it will be impressive, it will be so much like June and those hot nights when Miguel Cabrera just seemed to will the team to win, when even Eddie Bonine had nasty pitches working and the bullpen was not what opposing hitters wanted to face.

It’s the Sunday dread, the nostalgia and the promise all still present – the taste of watermelon on the breeze when you’re buttoning your coat – and all somehow failed. The fabulous home record, the road trip disasters. The injuries, the sense of having wasted something – something perfect like 26 outs, something perfect like a Rookie of the Year season paired with an MVP.

We know what’s coming. The cold, the long tucking in until the snow drains away, the months of rumors and innuendo and tough decisions we can spend this moment, next year, second guessing.

Still, it’s not quite time. The Tigers might be getting ready to hibernate, but baseball isn’t finished. There’s an entire month left of hot tea on the couch, windows open, blankets swathing feet. Maybe it’ll be harder to burst from that cocoon while watching the playoffs, but if it’ll stave off the Sunday dread-esque feeling of knowing it’s almost time to tuck the cleats away, you better believe I’m ready to bring out my Phillies hat.

6 Responses to “What happens in winter”
  1. MaggieMI says:

    “should I have gone to grad school when I was young? Is it too late to become President? Why didn’t I try harder in fifth grade? Will we ever be the people living in the same neighborhood as Tom Izzo?”

    All things I’m ready to take on now, haha. You there, too?

    • AVGW says:

      I’m pretty sure I’m happier now than I would have been with a PhD (and likely, no job + insane debt). Fifth grade, well, maybe I should have tried harder in college. As far as being neighbors with Izzo, that’ll happen if someone decides to grant me the MacArthur Genius grant to muse about baseball all day long or some such nonsense. Otherwise, it’s unlikely we ever end up there, or in the homes I ogle in Birmingham.

      Yet all that seems much easier to accept, and I am much happier with it, than the permanent melancholy that comes from the end of baseball.

      • Tim Carmody says:

        Baseball’s the only sport that perfectly follows the seasons this way. Even the Olympics, which are the main once-every-four-years competitor for summer attention, start late and end early.

        It’s so much stranger to be on the calendar of the school year — or for that matter, the NBA, NHL, or NFL. Summer’s a chaotic release, a revolutionary interregnum.

        Everything feels more tense: Will I get a job? Will I like my teacher? Who will the ____ draft? Will our star ____ hold out / get traded / leave via free agency / get caught with drugs/ get in a gunfight? / get caught with a dogfight? Cataclysm is around the corner at every turn.

        It ratchets its way forward — the time of modernity, fiscal years, election cycles. Only baseball is always a return, a renewal, to a time that’s always growing yet somehow the same.

        (And I hate this touchy-feely postmodern roots-of-nature crap, so think of how much I hate AVG and the MLB for making me write it.)

  2. Adam Capitanio says:

    This is pretty pitch perfect, and captures the combination of nostalgia and regret (the two are pretty inseparable, at least for me) I always feel in the fall. Maybe it has more to do with the end of baseball than I imagined.

    I would argue, as far as we can take it, that not does the baseball season respond to the rhythm of the seasons, but that the game itself is more rhythmic than any other major sport. That natural ebb and flow (which Tim seems to want to resist, but he’s right) is why baseball is properly played in the Northeast and Midwest, where seasons are pronounced and people have to live by them.

    • AVGW says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Adam.

      I think you’re right — baseball is so Midwest. It really follows the harvest cycle of seasons from spring to fall, and more than any other sport, spans the majority of the year. Part if that, as well, I’d argue, is that unlike with hockey (which also has a long season), we SEE the seasons change around the game because so many ballparks are open air.

      Makes me want to listen to “Harvest” now, too.

      • Tim Carmody says:

        Hmm. I’m less sure about this. Think of all the great players from the Caribbean, Florida, California, Mexico, even Texas.

        I think there’s something specifically agrarian about baseball. It’s not about temperature as much as it is planting and reaping season. So you can be a great baseball player from southern California, but it helps if you probably spent some time in orchards or vineyards there.

        Football is different; it doesn’t thrive in cities, but doesn’t die there either. Basketball is either urban or hyper-rural. If you grew up in an upper-middle-class suburb and aren’t Shane Battier, you’re probably not going pro.

        Other top sports that follow baseball’s season: tennis and golf. But maybe because they’re individual rather than team sports, they don’t have quite the same feel. The closest you get is in the attachment to the specific events: the Masters, the US Open, Wimbledon. You can be a Wimbledon fan like you can be a Mets fan. You can root for players and follow their careers, but they aren’t rooted to a place, and neither are your affections.

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